AN 11-year-old boy destroyed a school’s £11,000 climbing frame after using petrol to start a fire, a court heard.

The wooden equipment in the playground of Crook Primary School was incinerated in the resulting blaze on November 30 last year.

Newton Aycliffe Youth Court were told rumours about those responsible began circulating on Facebook and two 11-year-old boys were eventually tracked down and charged with arson.

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Both were due at court today (Monday, March 3), but one failed to attend. His solicitor explained that the boy’s mother said she had neither the time nor money to bring him to court.

The other boy did attend and admitted arson and breaking into the school to steal £6 worth of sweets.

Anne Mitchell, prosecuting, said the school’s security system was activated at around 4.35pm and police arrived to find that sweets had been stolen and furniture moved around.

At 9.35am they were called back to the school where the play equipment was well alight.

Ms Mitchell said a bin, which had been moved around 50 yards, was torched next to the climbing frame.

In a statement, headteacher Antonella Lupton said the fire caused great upset for all pupils, had outraged parents and placed an extra burden on staff during play times.

She said the equipment was uninsured but the parents and community have rallied round and are raising funds for a replacement.

Paul Donohue, mitigating, said the boy, who is not believed to have been a pupil at the school, was extremely remorseful and had not intended to destroy the climbing frame.

He said the 11-year-old had been having troubles at home and was planning to spend the night beneath the play equipment.

Mr Donohue said the boy tried to start a fire with leaves, but when that failed he took some petrol, poured it in the bin and set it alight.

“Before they knew anything about it the fire was completely out of control there was nothing they could do about it but run.”

The boy, who cannot be identified because of his age, was given a six month referral order and his parents were ordered to pay £100 compensation.

The other boy, also charged with arson and burglary, is due to appear at the youth court on Monday, March 17.